Don Mayer, founder of Small Dog Electronics Inc., a Waitsfield, Vermont-based company that resells Apple Macintosh computers. Small Dog has 13 staff members and annual revenues of more than $15 million.
What's your problem?
"In the computer business, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. The competition is fierce. When I started my company five years ago, I knew I had to come up with a name that would set us apart from the pack. A lot of other businesses are called data-this or tech-that, but those names don't give the customer much to go on."
Tell me about it:
"One of my highest priorities has always been to foster trust and loyalty among customers. Originally, when someone suggested the name Small Dog, I rejected the idea. But after giving it some thought, I realized that I was a small dog.
I was doing everything by myself out of my living room and using my garage as my warehouse. Plus, to this day, I have a bunch of small dogs running around."
What's your solution?
"The name Small Dog Electronics has generated an incredible following. Many of our customers have chosen to place orders with us simply because we are dog lovers. Not only that, nearly 60% of our revenue comes from repeat business. Somehow, we've tapped into the idea that dog lovers inherently trust each other.
"We've also created a Web site called Smalldog.com that people come back to even if they're not buying anything. They can visit our offices virtually via our three DogCams, and we encourage people to send in stories and photos of their pets. More than 200 animals have been posted at the Dog Friends section. I also send out a regular newsletter called "Kibbles & Bytes" to the 40,000 members of our Top Dog Club. If we can maintain our level of repeat business and cultivate this growing community of dog lovers, the company is going to be very successful for a long time to come."
Contact Don Mayer by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Visit Small Dog Electronics on the Web (www.smalldog.com).
A version of this article appeared in the November 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.